Gilroy man found guilty of murder

Otto Emil Koloto, 24

After two days of deliberations, a Santa Clara County jury found
former Gilroy resident Otto Emil Koloto guilty of the 2008 robbery
and murder of a South San Francisco man.
After two days of deliberations, a Santa Clara County jury found former Gilroy resident Otto Emil Koloto guilty of the 2008 robbery and murder of a South San Francisco man.

The jury delivered the unanimous verdict Friday afternoon to a courtroom crowded with members of the victim and defendant’s families. Koloto, 23, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole, said Amy Cornell, a spokeswoman for the Santa Clara County Office of the District Attorney. He will be sentenced 9 a.m. May 11 in Department 40 of the Hall of Justice in San Jose.

The trial lasted for about a week as a string of police officers, friends of both the victim and the defendant and Koloto’s accomplice, Donald Robert Lee, 23, testified.

After his arrest, Koloto pleaded not guilty to murder and second-degree robbery charges stemming from the July 2008 shooting death of Philip Lacy, 27. Lee originally faced a murder charge, but pleaded guilty to an accessory charge and was sentenced to one year in county jail followed by five years of probation, according to Cornell. He drove the car in which Koloto fled the scene of the crime, prosecutors said.

About 2 a.m. July 13, 2008, Koloto shot and killed Lacy in Palo Alto during a street robbery that spiraled out of control, according to police. Koloto spotted Lacy outside a Palo Alto bar and noticed a large gold necklace worth several thousand dollars hanging out of the man’s shirt. He approached Lacy, who was getting into a gold Lexus with several friends, and asked for a cigarette, said prosecutor Matt Braker. Koloto pulled out a handgun and robbed Lacy of his necklace, then shot Lacy when he lunged to get it back, Braker said.

Lacy died from his wounds several days later at Stanford Hospital.

When Koloto took the witness stand, he told a very different story, Braker said. In Koloto’s version, Lacy tried to sell him cocaine and became confrontational when Koloto refused, triggering a fight that ended with Koloto shooting Lacy by accident.

Although cocaine was found on Lacy, “there’s no evidence to believe that this was a drug deal,” Braker said. “There’s no evidence that Koloto even knew these guys had drugs until he read the police reports.”

Lacy’s friends, two of whom took the witness stand, had “no reason to lie,” Braker said.

“I’m happy that justice was done,” he said. “The victim’s family was happy that justice was done. But they’re not happy.”

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